Burnin' For You

Album: Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981)
Charted: 40

Songfacts®:

  • Lead guitarist Don "Buck Dharma" Roeser wrote this with Richard Meltzer, a rock writer who often contributed lyrics to the band. Dharma initially planned to release this song on his solo album, Flat Out, but was later convinced to include it on Blue Öyster Cult's Fire Of Unknown Origin. Dharma sang lead, as he did on many of BÖC's songs.

    In a Songfacts interview with Dharma, he said: "'Burnin' for You' is a Richard Meltzer lyric that probably has the most sincere sentiment from my view. I wrote the music to that, because I thought I could do a good job... and I guess I did."
  • When Richard Meltzer wrote the lyrics, he titled the song "Burn Out The Night," a reference to an evening of rock and roll. Blue Öyster Cult had a "band house" where their band members and associates (including their manager, Sandy Pearlman) would bring in song ideas and lyrics.

    Joe Bouchard, who was their bass player at the time, told the metal magazine Chips & Beer that he and Buck Dharma came across Meltzer's lyrics at the same time, and each wrote their own song around it. Dharma's version, with the title changed to "Burnin' For You," was the one that got recorded.
  • Along with Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult was one of the first heavy metal bands. They issued their first album in 1972 and grew a modest following before scoring a hit with "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (also written by Buck Dharma) from their 1976 album Agents of Fortune, which hit #12 and became embedded on rock playlists.

    Their next (and last) Top 40 hit came with "Burnin' For You," which was a #1 hit on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart.
  • In the book MTV Ruled the World - The Early Years of Music Video, frontman Eric Bloom tells the story of the "Burnin' For You" video: "We went out to California, and our management found a video company, and we did two videos in 24 hours - 'Burnin' For You' and 'Joan Crawford.' MTV wouldn't show the 'Joan Crawford' video, because there was something about it that was too racy for them. But 'Burnin' For You' got a ton of airplay on MTV in 1981 and 1982."

    Bloom continues: "We made it in the storm drains of LA. If anyone has seen the movie about giant ants, called Them!, with James Whitmore, it was filmed in the same place." Later he adds: "We thought the car on fire was very Hollywood, very cool. They had to have a Hollywood film/pyro guy there, who was licensed to burn s--t up. He had propane tanks, and he had to have a hunk of car to burn."

    These videos were directed by Richard Casey, who directed the 1985 movie Horror House on Highway Five.
  • The first eight lines of this song all contain the word "home," which makes up the first verse:

    Home in the valley
    Home in the city
    Home isn't pretty
    Ain't no home for me

    Home in the darkness
    Home on the highway
    Home isn't my way
    Home will never be


    Later, the theme switches to "time," which appears in every line of the second verse:

    Time is the essence
    Time is the season
    Time ain't no reason
    Got no time to slow

    Time everlasting
    Time to play B-sides
    Time ain't on my side
    Time I'll never know


    These verses both build into a fiery chorus, where Dharma is "living for giving the devil his due."
  • You can tell this song was written in part by a rock writer from the line, "Time to play B-sides," which back in the days of 45 RPM vinyl records were the tracks that came on the flip sides of the hits. These were often junk, but sometimes gems. Music writers loved looking for these.
  • Blue Öyster Cult was one of the few American rock bands that was making videos when MTV launched in 1981. The single was released in July that year, and when MTV went on the air on August 1, they were happy to put it in rotation since they wanted to push a rock format but had little to choose from. Thanks to exposure on the network, the song rose up the charts, reaching #40 in October.

    Blue Öyster Cult, who didn't even appear on their first four album covers, were not destined to be video stars. The videos they made for their 1983 follow-up album The Revölution by Night - "Shooting Shark" and "Take Me Away" - were ignored by the network, which had become enamored with more visually intriguing bands like Duran Duran and Culture Club.

Comments: 36

  • Chris from OklahomaIve loved this song since it came out in 81. Another word for burn is passion or desire.
  • Tom From Tulsa from TulsaThis song is playing on the radio in a murder scene in the horror film Let Me In (2010). The movie is great (Chloe Grace Moretz is really good as a sweet young girl/vicious vampire that must feed on human blood to survive), the scene was great, and every time I hear this song now I think about that scene.
    There are several early 80's songs in the film, as that's when the story takes place (which I also thought was pretty cool, and added to my enjoyment of the movie).
  • Mark Burgess from Los AngelesThe first verse of this song is totally lifted from "On the Road", the Kerouac novel.

    "Home in Missoula,
    Home in Truckee,
    Home in Opelousas,
    Ain't no home for me.
    Home in old Medora,
    Home in Wounded Knee,
    Home in Ogalla,
    Home I'll never be."
    (Kerouac)

    Even the title fits, as early in the novel, Sal Paradise, the main character, says that the only people he likes are those that "burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

    I'm not saying this as a criticism. If you're going to steal, steal from the best. I was just reading this book last week and came across that poem and Wham Bam Thank You Mam. (See what I did there?)
  • Keifin from NebraskaThis song has always seemed to me to be a description of life in a band. The challenges of being a musician on the road, with all the ups and downs(home-time), what it takes to be successful(burn out the days...) and, in the end, why he continues on( ...burning for you).
  • Kyle from IowaThis is the first time I have noticed* that on the re-recorded track for "Cult Classic" (bought the CD in '96) Buck Dharma clearly says "I'm living for giving *my* devil his due", at least he does on the first chorus. It's harder to identify on the final chorus.

    *A disclaimer that I'm a bass player and don't usually pay much attention to lyrics, except for BoC's, that is.;-)
  • Zach from Columbus, OhioDave from NJ, I interpreted it in a similar fashion. I never had listened closely to the lyrics until a few weeks ago, and it resonated with my experience with drug addiction and being homeless in Cali, burning out the days, time flying by. It also equally feels like a song about a guy who's bitterly reflecting on a relationship gone bad and feeling like he wasted time and energy into something that didn't work out. Either way its a good song with great lyrics that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
  • Misha from Michigan I love The part of the song they sing "awwww.....awwwwww....awww" I love that part! Plus I'm 16 classic rock is awesome.
  • Agee from UsaLike Terry, I hear it clearly as "I've seen suns that were freezing and lives that were through." These lyrics make sense.
  • Terry from Colchester, VtI believe the line is "I've seen suns that were freezing and lives that were through."
  • Bonejamin from Raleigh, NcYo Jack from Mesa AZ, I think that's it! That's the first lyric I've read that makes sense AND which I can actually hear! I'm gonna use that for my band's cover. Thanks Dude!
  • Jack from Mesa, AzI think the line is: I've seen signs that we're freezing, analyze it we're through
  • Nadine from Auburn, CaPeeps this song is about LoVe! He's so in love with her he's burning, not literally!
  • Jack from Mesa, AzSeems to be about selling his soul for fame. Don't know how else one could hear it.
  • John from Mesa, AzI sang Burnin' For You all through high school and beyond. My mates loved the "Time to play B-sides line as so true.
  • Tony from Eugene, OrTo me, it's just a song about hormones in overdrive, like so many other rockers. The apocalyptic lyrics are just window dressing. It's hooky as all get-out, and Buck Dharma's fills and lead solo well-placed and tasty. Too bad such a cool piece of music has to be tied to lust and the devil.
  • Dave from Brick, NjThe song had nothing to do with suicide... The guy in the car in the video dies from "internal combustion". The meaning of the song is pretty plain in the lyrics. Home sucks for him and time is against him, too. So, just screw it all. He's going to get high. But really so much more then that. Burn Out has several meanings and he is intending all of them. Get high, just waste time and do what is considered not worthwhile. Burning For You also has several meanings... He is saying that his soul is condemned to hell for living a life of bringing artistic music to his fans. Also, that he wants someone in a very emotionally disturbing way. There are many more meanings wrapped up in the simple and exquisite lyrics. He is an artist beyond many of his time, and the likes of which cannot be found in modern music.
  • Kayla from Lufkin, TxEvery time I hear this song, I think it's Don't Fear The Reaper... almost the same song.
  • Paul from Kennewick, WaI love it,and have since I was a teen. Like Rachel in SA,all I've gotta do is throw it on after a crappy day and I'm instantly right back up and better, ready for the next one. Good stuff guys!
  • Luke from Dayton, Ohok Thomas from Somerville, This Song is great, its one of BOC's most famous songs, good lyrics, good solo, good song all together, this song got me into likein BOC, so this song is freakin awsome!
  • Morgan from Beverly Hills, FlThis song is dark, and it could put you into a trance it is that hynotic. Awesome song!!!!!! love love love it!
  • Andy from Lake City, Flthink about it...problems at home, don't feel welcome, just "burn" one and you'll feel at home out on the "high"way. he's living the fast drug life of a rockstar to get his glory quick from rebellious teenagers so he won't advise them to be sober. quite clever lyrics to be so simple.
  • Thomas from Somerville, AlThis song is bullsh*t. It's the worst song BOC ever did and is wimpy compared to anything else they ever wrote, played or produced. It is generic, and outdated. To put it mildly, this song SUCKS.
  • Jake from Talahassee, MtIt's obvious to me that the Boys were thinking of sacrificial moves in regards to this song. They realize that the over generalization by using "You" in the title makes it easier to repeat this burning behavior for others at random points in one's life. Thus making this song's message timeless and thus quintessential.
  • Tony from Chicago, IlLove the bass line and the vocals! loved the song since i saw it in an episode of "my name is earl"
  • 5cats from Winnipeg, MbIf you're lucky enough to see the video for this tune, you'll see it actually IS about suicide! A boy, obsessed with a girl, sets his car on fire with him inside. After all the "Don't Fear (The Reaper)" controversy, they write a tune that really is about teen suicide and no one notices.
    At any rate, this is a vastly under-apreciated song, except by us BOC fans of course.
  • Ron from Pensacola, FlAm I the only one who thinks it is strange that people protested and thought the band was satanic for Don't Fear the Reaper and not this song? I mean this one has the line about "living for Giving the Devil his Due" after all.
  • Blane from Pocola, Oksong kicks @ss
  • Arthur from Pittsburgh, Pawell its valentines day n i cnt stop listenin 2 tht song
  • Nick from Cleveland, Ohthis song is great, kind of dreamy and hypnotic, i like how BOC produced this song, it was released in 81 but sounds like it's from late 60's/early 70's
  • Cgoober from Olympia, Nho dang.
    awesome song alert!
  • Daryl from Stoke, MidlandsBrilliant Lyrics
  • George from Baltimore, MdThis is a great road song. A very special lady comes to mind whenever I hear it.
  • Joe from Bellingham, WaNice!
  • Rachel from San Antonio, TxI love this song so much! After a bad day, I come home and have this blaring - cheers me up.
  • Alice from Fairhope, Alnot only the best BOC song EVER, but perhaps the best rock song of all time. the melody is amazing the lyrics are hypnotic.
  • Mia from Wellston, MiMY fave song ever!
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